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Outstanding blues and swing, arresting visuals, bad screenplay
If you are a fan of Salomon Burke, Etta James, Dr. John, or just love blues and swing, "Dark Streets" would appear to be dream come true. In this tale of a doomed 1930s rich boy turned night club owner, even actresses Bijou Phillips and Izabella Miko hold their own as club singers delivering their songs with plenty of gusto and sex-appeal while the dancers and music scorch the screen. But the music and club act scenes cannot hide the movie's inept screenplay.
Besides the music, the cinematography is also stunning creating the noirest of atmospheres in the middle of the Great Depression. Murderous dark streets, threatening characters, a decadent night club, presented in rich palette of dark hues and swirling camera work. Unfortunately, soon this becomes irrelevant when the plot fails to deliver.
The story borrows heavily from "Chinatown" and 1940s/1950s film noirs, involving electrical power, greed, dissipation, betrayal, and murder. In able hands it could have been a compelling moral tale, but this poorly written movie lacks the required tension to maintain interest resorting to noir clichés (femme fatale) and contrived situations (heartbreak leads to cocaine) with subplots and characters that go nowhere. The dialogue attempts to generate some sparks here and there but the results are noir light - even Bogart and Bacall would have come out flat delivering the lines. To make matters worse, the main character is an uninteresting weakling who does not inspire much sympathy played by Gabriel Mann as if sleepwalking. Parts of the plot are ludicrous: a corrupt police lieutenant who wears a metal chest plate, a large amount of money that is never seeing again, a shrewd hostile governor is set up having sex at the club, characters murdered for no reason, etc.
If you like bluesy music, Busby Berkeley, a 1930s noir atmosphere and flashy camera work, you should enjoy some of this movie. Alas, "Dark Dreams" is neither "Chicago" nor "Chinatown" and while the musical acts sizzle the rest of the movie fizzles. If one would be able to only listen to the music with the voices turn off, it would be perfect. It gets 3 starts only for its music and some of its visuals.
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